Leader : Ian Nelson. Distance : 9.5 miles
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Weardale; what better place for a walk on the wild side on a cold but sunny winter day in December? A historic hunting ground for the Romans and the Prince Bishops alike and with its expansive lead mining activities a thing of the past it nowadays offers up its delights for those like us who gain pleasure from exploring its environs.
The area has played host to a number of club walks in recent times but today we had our starting line firmly attached to the town of Wolsingham. Sitting at the confluence of the River Wear and Waskerley Beck. it is a small settlement and one of the first market towns in County Durham, deriving its name from Waelsingas, or Sons of Wael, an ancient Saxon family that once lived there.
Leaving from our parking spot the ever popular Demesne picnic area we walked south through the town for a short while until, shortly after crossing the River Wear, we left hard paving and headed more or less south east over grassy fields thankfully crisp underfoot due to the overnight plunge in temperature. Climbing very gently we reached the ruins of Wiserley Hall which has a unique claim to fame in that the privy of the farmhouse is a listed building. Good to note that the important places in life are so well regarded. We paused for a cuppa.
Onwards then, with the gradient gently increasing towards, the edge of Knitsley Fell where we again paused, this time at yet another redundant trig point signifying the highest point of our journey and for the now obligatory group photo shoot.
Passing for a short while through light woodland we turned due east past Shipley Moss and on to Monkfield, all the while being thankful the firm underfoot conditions held out the possibility that cleaning boots could be an easy task at the end of the day. By now we were exactly half way through our tramp, a touch short of the point of no return so a call for lunch rang out. But where? A few metres further and the question was answered as we reached the Stanhope to Wolsingham railway line where its deserted platform proved the perfect table for our banquets. We assumed at the time that the timetable would not be operative in the winter months thus we were safe from iron horses, an assumption proved to be completely wrong later in the day when trains were seen charging along-Phew!!
Lunch over we crossed the line and after a short gentle climb turned north to cross the bustling A689 skirting Helme Park woodland and the babbling Thornley Beck. A sharp almost 180degree turn then saw us head through the surroundings of the historic Bradley Hall, once a 14C Manor House and now a farm and approached via a delightful stone arch bridge.
We re- crossed the highway and after following a short twisting path crossed the railway line again to join the River Wear’s waterside track. On very familiar territory now for most of the assembled dozen we enjoyed the remaining pleasant 2.5 mile stroll back to town.
A customary beer in the Black Bull, one of our regular watering holes when in the area, brought a convivial end to a really enjoyable day in the Durham Dales.